(This is an edited version of the article published on the Saskatoon Stamp Centre website in September 1999)
In September of 1998, we received a letter from a Mr. Holmes from Halifax, NS, stating that he had a complete sheet of 50 of the 1994 Christmas Choir stamp. What was remarkable about this sheet was that it was a 52¢ denomination instead of the regularly issued 50¢ value. Apparently Mr. Holmes bought a total of three sheets of 50 of this “unissued” denomination from a fellow with a booth at a local flea market, as “discount postage” at below face value. Mr. Holmes began shopping around looking for the best offer and, as time would tell, he had contacted a great many dealers throughout North America to sell his “find”.
This discovery became more widely known when Mr. Holmes wrote to The Canadian Philatelist, the journal of the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada. His letter was published in the November-December 1998 issue of The Canadian Philatelist with a large photo of an UR imprint block of four appearing on the front cover of that issue.
Negotiations proceeded but it quickly became apparent that Mr. Holmes had some very lofty ideas of what his treasures were worth. Unfortunately for Mr. Holmes, I became aware that the seller at the flea market had more than just these three sheets. Thus, we were pretty certain that it would be only a matter of time before we managed to track down some of these from closer to the source.
It was October of 1998, at the BNAPS Exhibition in Orlando, Florida, that a collector approached us with three sheets he had of this very same stamp. We quickly made a deal on these, and he promised he would check back with his source to see if there were more. By January, we had managed to purchase what we were assured was all there were. We are pretty sure that these came, via a rather circuitous route, from the same source as Mr. Holmes's three sheets. We ended up splitting the group with a dealer in the Maritimes.
We are now pretty sure that the flea market seller sold at least five sheets to people other than Mr. Holmes that day. Some of these were likely used for postage. After all, 52¢ was the rate to the USA in the fall of 1998. We are eagerly waiting the discovery of a “used” copy. It would have to have a date prior to September 1998 to be certain it was not a philatelic usage. If there were any used, they would likely be found somewhere in the USA.
In 1994, Canada Post was lobbying the Government in Ottawa for an increase in postal rates. They obviously expected to receive permission to raise the rates from 43¢, 50¢, and 88¢ by Christmas and planned to issue the 1994 Christmas stamps at the new rates being proposed: 45¢, 52¢ and 90¢. The public were not the least bit impressed with this proposal, particularly just before the Christmas card season. Political pressure was applied, and the rate increase was postponed. These rates did finally come into effect on 1 August 1995.
It takes many months lead-time to prepare a new stamp issue. The design for the Christmas stamps for 1994 would have been finalized early in 1994, plates would have been prepared by the end of the summer, and the stamps, scheduled for release 3 November 1994, would likely have been printed by the end of August of 1994. Stamps are always shipped to post offices at least a week before the issue date. The sheets of these “52¢” stamps have imprints on the four corners of the sheet. This would certainly lead one to assume this was philatelic stock destined for Antigonish for distribution through the philatelic outlet there. Likely, when the rate increase was turned down, there was a panic re-order for the Christmas series in the old denomination. The original shipment of the “new” values was thus of no use. They would have been sent off for destruction. Somewhere along the line, the surviving stamps found their way into private hands.
Thus we have a new stamp and a most unusual occurrence in Canadian philately. Unissued designs and values are known as both die proofs and plate proofs. Collectors generally call these essays. A few “imperforates” have surfaced over the years with denomination or designs that were not “as issued”. Generally, these “essays” have been in the form of an issued design with some part of the inscriptions or values different from what was finally issued. This is the first time an apparently “finished stamp” has reached the philatelic market here in Canada.
There is also some other interesting evidence that the rate change proposal was the reason for this variety. The Christmas 1994 “Greet More” booklet (BK171) contained ten of the non-denominated 38¢ Soloist design. All these booklets had a label applied “over” the “45¢ rate” information printed on the booklet cover (in anticipation of this proposed rate increase from 43¢ to 45¢). Since the stamps in the booklets had no denomination, only the covers had to be corrected and this label was the solution here. If you carefully peal back the label on your booklet you will see the “45¢ rate” information.
There is one other interesting aspect of these stamps. The gum on the 52¢ is “greenish”, a characteristic of Coated Paper’s paper, which is confirmed by the “C” on the imprint blocks. The gum on the regular 50¢ value is “whiter” and the “P” that appears on the imprint blocks confirms that this is Peterborough paper. Canadian Bank Note Company used both papers during 1994. Coated Papers’ paper was used on the CBN printings of the Berry definitives released in August of 1994 (and obviously printed well before that date). Peterborough paper was used by CBN on the 43¢ booklets of ten released in December of 1994. It is apparent that the issued stamps were rushed into production in the fall of 1994, and thus the issued stamps were printed on the Peterborough paper in use at that time. It is safe to assume that the 52¢ value was probably printed in August 1994, or earlier, on the “greenish” Coated Papers’ stock.
Regardless, an interesting variety to enhance any Elizabethan collection.
Singles are C$195.00
Block of 4 at C$495.00
Individual imprint block of 4 is C$795.00
(choice of corners is limited but we will do our best to supply the corner you would like)
Matched set of imprint blocks of 4 is $2,950.00
We noticed that Darnell has listed this variety in their Millennium 2000 catalogue as #1596b at $250 for a single and $1,250 for an imprint block of 4.
Darnell also lists a 90¢ value from this set at $500.00.
We have managed to acquire some of these as well. There are NO multiples known.
Singles only at C$495.00
Purchase both 52¢ and 90¢ together for C$595.00
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